Google ‘Parks’ Domains by Mistake, Causes Major Ranking Flux

Matt Cutts clarifies the error that has caused major fluctuations in Google rankings this week.

In the light of recent search quality efforts an innocent glitch at Google has cause much disruption and concern among webmaster and the SEO community. As usual most quickly jumped to conclusion that their website may be “penalised” for bad links and some thought they were a victim of “link attack” by competitors. As usual the solution is simpler than that, and we learn that the anti-spam action was not the cause of the major ranking fluctuation this week. Well, not directly anyway.

Matt Cutts

What Happened?

[blockquote type="blockquote_quotes" align="right"]…our classifier for parked domains was reading from a couple files which mistakenly were empty. As a result, we classified some sites as parked…, Matt Cutts[/blockquote]

Google treats parked domains in a very different way to what they consider to be active domains. Pages with layout, content and link characteristics of parked domains are easily identified and classified as such. Google does this in order to balance out the link graph connections and remove any unfair linking caused by place-holder domains. Parked domains typically host ads or commercial links with very little value to users and are certainly not of editorial nature. What caused the error at Google was that the parked domain classifier has been reading from a couple of wrong (blank) files and some active websites were mistakenly classified as ‘parked’.

Is it Fixed?

Yes, the issue has now been corrected and rankings should appear as per usual. If you notice any further fluctuation this is likely do to one of the other 200 or so factors Google uses to rank results in its index. Any fluctuations prior to this week are likely not caused by this glitch says Cutts.


Dan Petrovic, the managing director of DEJAN, is Australia’s best-known name in the field of search engine optimisation. Dan is a web author, innovator and a highly regarded search industry event speaker.

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